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Download a PDF of the Winter 2015-2016 newsletter

Kingston Community Feast

Judy Montgomery, member of the Sisters of the Drum Circle

Judy Montgomery, member of the Sisters of the Drum Circle

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in Ottawa in June 2015. Only a few hours away in Kingston, we have wondered how to carry the momentum of right relationship into our community.

The Session of St. Andrew’s PC Kingston and the Presbytery of Kingston extended their support to begin simply. We partnered with the Katarokwi Grandmothers’ Council and offered a ‘community feast’, inviting First Nations and church circles from around Kingston to gather for an evening of food and song. KAIROS co-sponsored the event. The Presbyterian Healing and Reconciliation Seed Fund offered generous financial support. What an evening Wednesday, October 21 was!

As people entered the hall, each was given a coloured circle and asked to write their name on the badge. The MC then invited everyone to find others with the same colour badge and to meet and make new friends.

As the evening unfolded, a grandmother offered an opening prayer. A men’s drum circle invited all people into a wonderfully strong and deep place. A chef from the nearby Tyendinaga (Mohawk) community prepared a buffet including ‘three sisters soup’, moose and buffalo stew, wild rice casserole and bannock. Jennifer Henry, KAIROS’ executive director, spoke. A grandmother reminded us of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. After the meal, a student from Queen’s University shared a song she had written, and the university chaplain led us singing in a round. We left holding hands in a step dance of reconciliation, as a women’s drum circle played a travelling song.

The most moving and enduring part for me was just sitting at a table, sharing food and beginning the personal relationships upon which new understandings and new ways forward can be considered. We hoped 100 people would make it. We welcomed 184 children, women and men – that is a lot of ground in which God can work new beginnings!

Andrew Johnston is the minister at St. Andrew’s PC in Kingston, ON.

Tending a Sacred Fire: Reflecting on time spent in Cape Croker

From left: Onagotay, Andrew Johnston, Paul Carl

From left: Onagotay, Andrew Johnston, Paul Carl

On a Friday afternoon, the first weekend in autumn, I drove north along the Bruce Peninsula to Cape Croker, home of the Chippewas of the Nawash Unceded First Nation. I was there, along with two dozen other Presbyterians, to learn how to better walk alongside First Nations peoples — and in turn to learn how to equip and encourage my church community to do the same. Justice Ministries hired Rev. Susan Samuel to work with leaders from Cape Croker to host the weekend-long training workshop.

On Friday night, Ken Albert lit the sacred fire, built in a small field behind the manse of Cape Croker’s United Church, and invited us to add pinches of tobacco and cedar to the flames and offer prayers to the Creator. Ken Albert is an Anishinaabe firekeeper and pipe carrier, indicating his leadership in these sacred ceremonies.

On my way to the first workshop on Saturday morning, I stopped by the sacred fire. Ken was just stepping out of his teepee a few meters away. He said he’d woken often throughout the night to check on the fire and add more kindling. Then he asked if I could help tend the fire for a few minutes while he took a break. I knew the first workshop, held in the church sanctuary a hundred metres away, would start shortly. But he looked tired. And I felt honoured to be asked.

I stayed with the fire, added some kindling, and waited. Bending near the growing flames I noticed how the large stones placed in a circle around the fire were meticulously arranged: the shape reminded me both of a turtle and a medicine wheel — important Anishinaabe symbols we learned about the night before.

When Ken returned I pointed out the stones and asked if he’d mind telling me more about the medicine wheel. He was eager to share his knowledge. And after talking for a minute, he invited me to join him in his teepee. My default is to stick to the schedule, and I was already late for my workshop. The tension only lasted a moment. Perhaps it was the prodding of the Holy Spirit: I knew I needed to stay.

Sitting on the ground, in the warmth of the teepee, Ken began to share the many similarities he sees between Jesus’ teachings and the traditional teachings of the Anishinaabe elders. He also told me about the deep pain the church had caused his family. And yet, despite the pain, his admiration for Jesus remained.

For me this was a sacred “a-ha” moment: a real-time microcosm of healing and reconciliation. And as spontaneous as this moment felt, I later recognized it was only possible due to the many hours of preparation and planning by the event’s organizers.

As Ken told me later, there are different ways of knowing. My understanding of “mutual respect” and “open dialogue” is limited if I only read them in an official document. But over the course of that weekend the people I got to know helped me learn through experience: by sharing food, building a medicine wheel, participating in smudging and pipe ceremonies, listening to stories, and being asked to help tend a sacred fire.

Seth Veenstra lives in Hanover ON where he attends St. Andrew’s PC.

Creation Care Prayers

Pamela McCarroll, Ben McCaroll-Butler and Carragh Erhardt walk with KAIROS members in the March for Jobs, Climate and Justice that took place in Toronto, Sunday, July 5. The sign bearing blue streams reads,

Pamela McCarroll, Ben McCaroll-Butler and Carragh Erhardt walk with KAIROS members in the March for Jobs, Climate and Justice that took place in Toronto, Sunday, July 5. The sign bearing blue streams reads, “Let Justice Flow Down”.

Several organizations including KAIROS and Citizens for Public Justice held events in Ottawa on Sunday, November 29 to raise awareness about the Conference of Parties 21 meeting in Paris at which world leaders will discuss ways to combat climate change. In November, the Moderator of the 141st General Assembly wrote to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Catherine McKenna, expressing the concerns and hopes of the General Assembly that Canada take a leadership role to negotiate a treaty that limits the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. The Moderator’s letter is posted on the church’s website.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) organized an interfaith prayer vigil at the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa as one part of the November 29 event. The Moderator of the Presbytery of Ottawa, Mr. John Tyler, an elder at Westminster PC, offered a prayer for leaders at the meetings in Paris.

CPJ organized a ten day prayer chain. Christians across Canada took turns spending an hour in prayer for world leaders in Paris. The result is that there was continual prayer for each hour of each day of the Paris meetings.

Peace and Human Security Intern

The Life and Mission Agency is pleased to announce that Philip MacFie has been selected as the Peace and Human Security Intern with Project Ploughshares in Waterloo, Ontario until April 2016. Philip began the internship in September.

Philip is the sixth Peace and Human Security Intern with Project Ploughshares. The internship program is a partnership between The Presbyterian Church in Canada and Project Ploughshares. The program is made possible through a grant from Undesignated Bequests. The program is an opportunity for young Presbyterians who have recently graduated from a post-secondary institution to learn about peace and human security issues and to work in an ecumenical setting.

Philip received an Honours BA from the University of Ottawa. He then received a Master of Arts in History from the University of Toronto. This past year Philip completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Public Administration from Humber College in Toronto. In August 2013 and 2014, Philip served as a Peace Camp Counsellor for the Presbytery of Ottawa. His home congregation is Parkwood Presbyterian Church in Ottawa.

Project Ploughshares was established in 1976. As an agency of The Canadian Council of Churches, Project Ploughshares provides expertise and analysis to the Council and its members on peace and security issues and assists them in shaping an ecumenical response to those issues. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is represented on Project Ploughshares’ Governing Committee by Dr. Kathryn Hare.

For further information about the Peace and Human Security Internship Program, please contact Stephen Allen, Associate Secretary, Justice Ministries, sallen [at] presbyterian [dot] ca.

New church vision—building a green social housing community


The leaders of Westmount PC in Edmonton, the Session and the Board, were well aware that we could not continue with the status quo. Although we are growing as a congregation, we are a much smaller congregation than when our church was built. The building costs a lot to maintain and is likely to require major repairs in the near future. Several years ago an environmental study was done on the church. The conclusion was we could not do anything to stem the heat loss. So the question became – what is God calling us to at this time and in this place?

We felt led to initiate conversations with other Presbyterian Churches to form clusters for programs and ministry. This dialogue is on-going.

We explored the possibility of a housing complex to meet a housing need, and provide community space where we could worship. My first meeting with a housing developer did not excite my imagination—his major concern was to maximize for-profit housing units, rather than meeting the housing needs of our community. Green building was not a priority. I came to realize that, as a congregation, we don’t have the capacity to manage such a complex. So we let things sit.

By “happen chance” we met Cam MacDonald from Intermet Housing, a not-for-profit housing association. I believe that this “happen chance” was God at work in our journey. Cam informed us that the greatest need in Edmonton is housing for large families. And the lights went on! A Burmese family joined our church. In walking with our Burmese friends as they adjust to Canada, and now sponsoring another Burmese family, I knew how difficult it was to find housing for large families. Intermet’s philosophy is to put people first, build with quality, follow up with maintenance and it is very interested in being “green.” Now there was excitement!

Following a discussion with Intermet Housing, we went to the congregation with a proposed plan. On March 3, 2012 our congregation decided to explore the feasibility of leveraging our land resource to build a complex in partnership with the Intermet Housing Society and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. We hoped this would result in the provision of affordable housing primarily for large families, worship space for our congregation, and program space for non-profit organizations.

We continue to work with Intermet Housing and have agreed on a design of 16 units of stacked townhouses. Four of the units will have 5 bedrooms and the rest will be 3 bedroom units. The goal is to achieve a net-zero energy for the housing unit. This means minimizing energy consumption while integrating means of energy generation (such as solar panels.) It looks like we will achieve this goal.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada will continue to own the land. Intermet will build, own and manage a multi-purpose building, including the affordable housing units. The Mennonite Centre for Newcomers will help select families and run programs out of the multi-purpose building. Westmount Presbyterian Church will rent worship space in the complex. This will free up finances to do more ministry and mission. This space will be shared with others. The local daycare will have space in the basement. This is a win/win situation for everyone.

The building plan was approved by the City Council October 19th 2015. The mayor made special mention of the project. He hoped it would be a model for others to work in co-operation. Demolition of the church building will begin in March 2016.

Annabelle Wallace is a retired minister and attends Westmount PC in Edmonton AB.

Christ Among Us

Image of manger

Image of manger

Unexpected time in a teepee, a feast that surpasses expectations, a congregation’s decision to imagine its property in a different way (and do something about it), a Prayer Chain across Canada to pray for world leaders as they negotiate an agreement to tackle climate change, congregations walking with Indigenous people – these strike me as signs of God’s active presence in the world. These examples and others, are found in this issue of Streams of Justice. They illustrate how we can be welcomed, and how we can welcome. It is about a sense of belonging and caring for the marginalized and vulnerable in our midst and caring for this planet we call home.

Advent is a unique a time of anticipation. We celebrate the promise of the coming, but not yet here, Messiah. As we wait for the Prince of Peace, we cannot forget the world of the here and now – broken, wounded and desperately needing the light and love of Christ for healing and wholeness. We set aside time worship and a time of quiet prayer, and in so doing we are nourished to do our part in renewing human relationships and renewing creation. The Good News of Advent is that we do all things with fervent hope of reconciliation of all peoples and all creation to God through Christ.

Soon, we will celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace who came among us. May we continue to find the strength to live as Jesus taught us.

In Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Paul advises the community that the Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3: 6-7)

The Lord is near. I take this opportunity to wish you a Blessed Christmas.

Stephen Allen, Associate Secretary, Justice Ministries

Responsible Investing

On Friday, November 20, 2015 SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education) organized a workshop in Toronto on responsible investment for religious investors. SHARE is a not-for-profit organization that offers responsible investment services to help investors integrate environmental, social and governance issues into their investment management processes.

One panel considered the impact of climate change. Fund managers must be aware of the risks associated with investments in the fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel industry is under pressure to consider the risks of climate change in light of their business and practices.

A major issue discussed was proxy-shareholder votes. Shareholders are organizing resolutions to oblige companies to assess the impact of their business practices on human rights and the environment.

Rob Robertson is a member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ottawa. St. Andrew’s has developed guidelines on ethical investing. Rob writes:

What does this mean for the Glebe Trust? First, I would say that it means we should periodically review our portfolio with social issues in mind. Are there problematic companies or sectors? Justice Ministries in co-operation with SHARE can assist in identifying cases that may give rise to a discussion of negative social impact. For example, Justice Ministries is in dialogue with Goldcorp regarding the impact of its Marlin mine in Guatemala. If we held shares in Goldcorp too, we would need to determine if our views should be aligned. The issue of climate change and investing in fossil fuels is more difficult. The Presbyterian Church in Canada has made statements about climate change but this has not affected related investments. This was the first opportunity for the Glebe Trust in my experience to expose itself to actors in this field.

Living out Calls to Action

Living out Calls to Action

Photo top: Lori Ransom, Vivian Ketchum; Centre: Presbyterians walk for reconciliation in Ottawa May 31, 2015; Bottom: Brandi Bird, Janette McIntosh

On June 2, 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 Calls to Action for churches, governments and Canadians. These are the blue prints for healing the broken relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Two dozen Presbyterians were in Ottawa to hear the Calls.

What do the Calls to Action say?

There are 94 calls to action: 42 address healing the wounds of residential schools and 52 are steps for building new relationships. Together they build a foundation for justice and right relationship.

Read the Calls to Action

Read the Calls to Action. What do you find striking? What questions do you have? Was your heart moved by one Call in particular? Make a list of everything you think you need to learn. Make a list of what you think you can do. Host a one hour discussion about the Calls to Action with members of your church. Invite members of other churches to join your discussion. You have started to respond to the Calls to Action! (Online at www.trc.ca)

Winds of Change

Join KAIROS’ Winds of Change campaign and support Call 62. It calls for the residential school legacy, Treaties and past and present Indigenous contributions to Canada to be a mandatory part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools in each province and territory.

What churches are doing

Knox PC in Calgary is learning about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The congregation joined an interfaith planning team organizing a forum to discuss how peoples of faith can implement the values and principles enshrined in the Declaration (Call to Action # 48).

Session at First PC in Port Colborne created an ad hoc committee to inform the congregation, community and the Niagara presbytery about Presbyterian involvement in residential schools and to discern ways to promote healing.

Westwood PC in Winnipeg is cooperating with eight churches in their community to host four evening events in January to April 2016. The first three evenings will have speakers who will address themes that run through the Calls to Action. The final evening will be a community discernment for ways the community can respond to the Calls together.

First PC in Regina works ecumenically and is walking with Indigenous groups to advocate for the commemoration and maintenance of the cemetery at the Presbyterian-run Regina Indian Industrial School which closed in 1911 (Call to Action # 75).